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He’s been watched on television by millions, performed on stage in front of thousands at Wembley Arena, and has nearly 500,000 followers on Twitter.
On Saturday, Jake Quickenden is set to play for his new eighth-tier club Ossett Town at Sheffield FC in the FA Cup preliminary round in front of around 200 people – a world away from his life as a reality television star, singer and model.
“I get more nervous playing football than I do when I’m up on stage performing in front of thousands,” the 28-year-old X Factor singer and 2014 I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! runner-up told BBC Sport.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m walking out on the pitch in front of 10 people or 100. I know I’m going to get stick and there’s going to be a big meaty defender dishing out a couple of cheeky elbows. It’s OK though, I can look after myself.”
A former Scunthorpe United youth team player, Quickenden’s hopes of playing professionally for his hometown club ended when he broke a leg at the age of 16.
He went on to play in Australia and, after returning to England, turned out for non-league Frickley Athletic and Bottesford Town before taking a break from football to concentrate on his music and television career.
He was in the 2012 and 2014 editions of the X Factor and, three years ago, appeared alongside former Premier League player Jimmy Bullard in the reality television game show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! where he finished second behind four-time superbike world champion Carl Fogarty.
Quickenden joined Northern Premier League Division One North Ossett in July although he had already made his mark with the Yorkshire part-timers at the end of last season.
An online vote to find the best goal of the 2016-17 Northern Premier League campaign saw Ossett’s Martin Pembleton – Quickenden’s close friend – tied with Frickley Athletic’s Curtly Martin-Wyatt.
Pembleton then ran out clear winner after Quickenden urged his 497,000 followers on Twitter to vote for his friend.
“Football was my first love and I decided recently that I wanted to get back to a decent standard and test myself,” added Quickenden. “I don’t want to be picked just because I’m on television. I want to earn my place in the side.
“I don’t get treated any differently in the dressing room.
“I got lots of stick for turning up to a pre-season game in a tracksuit. It was pink. Once all the banter had died down a few of the lads quietly asked me later if I could get them one.
“I haven’t had to sing to them yet, I’m sure that will come, but I’ve heard their attempts in the dressing room. Let’s just say it wasn’t for the faint-hearted.”
Ossett, whose average gate is around 150, are captained by Alex Peterson, 22, who has experience of playing in the Championship for Doncaster Rovers in 2013-14.
Victory at Northern Premier League Division One South Sheffield – the world’s oldest football club – will leave the Ossett, founded in 1936, four wins from a first ever appearance in the FA Cup first round.
“If I play it’ll be my first appearance in the FA Cup,” said Quickenden. “My friend Jack Muldoon was involved in Lincoln City’s run to the quarter-finals last season. That was a fantastic story and I’d love to help Ossett go on a good run.”
Going strong at 47
When the 2018 FA Cup final takes place at Wembley on 19 May, Paul Bastock will be celebrating his 48th birthday.
After more than 1,100 league games, 20 moves and 17 different clubs, Bastock will become one of the oldest players in the modern era to play in the FA Cup when he turns out for Corby Town on Saturday.
The goalkeeper made his Football League debut in 1988 aged 17 for Cambridge United and his prolonged career has seen him share a dressing room with former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne and ex-Manchester United striker Dion Dublin.
“I remember my debut like it was yesterday,” Bastock said. “It was a goalless draw at Colchester in 1988. John Beck gave me £25 after the game to go and have some beers for keeping a clean sheet.
“I pocketed the money because I was teetotal at the time.”
Bastock’s long career started at Coventry City where he secured an FA Youth Cup winners’ medal in 1987 – the same season the Sky Blues beat Tottenhham 3-2 in the FA Cup final.
He has had three spells at St Albans City, a stint in Malaysia, while no-one has played more games for Boston United than Bastock.
Some of his 679 appearances for the Pilgrims came after they won promotion to the Football League in 2002.
“Our first game up was against Bournemouth. It was a 2-2 draw but after that we went one way and Bournemouth went the other – and now they’re in the Premier League,” he added.
Two years later, Boston announced Gascoigne as their new player-coach.
“You had to pinch yourself that Gazza was in the dressing room,” added Bastock. “He was brilliant with the youth team, organising fitness programmes and passing on his experience, but he was having his own battles.”
Eighth-tier Northern Premier League Division One South Corby, who reached the third round in 1965-66, travel to Norfolk to face Isthmian League Dereham Town.
|FA Cup preliminary round in numbers|
|11 – the number of rounds left after the preliminary round before the final on 19 May 2018.||552– number of clubs left in the 2017-18 FA Cup. A total of 737 teams entered.|
|£3,425 – amount of money teams who entered at the extra preliminary round stage will have won if they reach the first qualifying round.||135 – the number of new clubs entering at this round. A total of 185 advanced from the extra preliminary round.|
David Bell, who has played in the Championship for Luton Town, Leicester City, Norwich City and Coventry City, is player-manager of the Steelmen.
So could Bastock carry on playing past 50?
“This is definitely my last year playing but I’ve been saying that for the last 10 years,” he said.
“Some of the other players are 30 years younger than me. It’s funny seeing their faces in the dressing room. They’re like ‘here comes grandad!”
From Premier League to non-league for nothing
He turned out for Newcastle United in the Champions League and once commanded a reported weekly wage of £30,000, but Titus Bramble is now playing for nothing at a club whose average gate last season was 85.
Four years after playing in the Premier League, 35-year-old Bramble is set to make his second appearance for ninth-tier Stowmarket Town in the FA Cup preliminary round against Romford on Saturday.
“Some of my players are Titus’ school friends,” Stowmarket boss Rick Andrews told BBC Sport.
“He’s giving something back to football. I’m sure Titus has done quite well out of the professional game. He works as an academy coach at Ipswich Town and he wants to play with his old school friends.
“It’s a bit like the perfect storm. A number of permutations have come together and this is an arrangement that works for everyone. We’ll enjoy Titus for as long as he is here.”
Bramble made his debut in Stowmarket’s defence against Felixstowe and Walton United in the Eastern Counties Premier Division last Saturday – his first competitive game since playing for Sunderland in a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United on 30 March, 2013.
Stowmarket were winning 3-2 when the Ipswich-born player was substituted after 71 minutes. They lost 4-3.
Bramble made 292 Premier League appearances over a 13-year period for Ipswich, Newcastle, Wigan and Sunderland as well as commanding transfer fees totalling £6m.
Sir Bobby Robson, Martin O’Neill and Steve Bruce were among several managers he served.
|Brothers in arms|
|When ninth-tier Leverstock Green entertain Aylesbury United on Saturday, brothers Shane and Jack Wood are expected to be on opposing sides – as captains. Shane, 29, is skipper of Spartan South Midlands Premier Division Leverstock, while younger brother Jack, 25, is captain of Aylesbury, who play in the eighth-tier Southern League Division One Central.|
Former Ipswich, Peterborough and Livingston defender Scott Mitchell also plays for Stowmarket, who have never reached the FA Cup first round in their 134-year history.
Lee Norfolk, the first player from New Zealand to play in the Premier League when he appeared for Ipswich in 1994-95, is part of the coaching team.
The home tie with Isthmian League North Romford will be played at nearby Ipswich Wanderers as work is being carried out on Stowmarket’s pitch.
South Shields v Bridlington Town live on BBC Sport
The preliminary round is the second of six qualifying rounds before the first round proper on 4-5 November.
A total of 185 teams advanced from the extra preliminary round two weeks ago, with an additional 135 entering at this stage to make 160 ties.
Winning clubs at this stage will receive £1,925 each, while one match per round through qualifying will be streamed by BBC Sport.
The tie between South Shields and Bridlington Town will be live (12:30 BST) on the BBC Sport website.
South Shields play in the eighth-tier Northern Premier League Division One North and their team includes 36-year-old Argentine midfielder Julio Arca – veteran of 149 Premier League appearances for Sunderland and Middlesbrough.
Bridlington play in the ninth-tier Northern Counties East Premier Division and are managed by Curtis Woodhouse, the former Sheffield United and Birmingham City midfielder who went on to have a career as a professional boxer.
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